FILE – COVID-19 vaccine trials

(The Center Square) – California Gov. Gavin Newsom has given the green light for counties to begin giving coronavirus vaccines to all residents age 65 and older as soon as everyone in Phase 1A – front-line hospital workers and nursing home employees – have been vaccinated.

The next round of vaccinations was supposed to be for those age 75 and older, but Newsom said he wanted to speed up distribution as death rates and hospitalizations continue to plateau. Local health officials, however, said they are still waiting for more vaccines to complete Phase 1B, including first responders and other hospital employees.

Since the pandemic began, California has reported 2,839,978 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 40,282 on Wednesday, and 31,678 deaths, including 520 on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, California had administered 889,042 vaccines. Its rate of 2,066 doses per 100,000 people places it among the lower tier of states.

The California Department of Public Health said the rolling 14-day average of 40,200 new cases per day is just slightly below the state’s all-time high and hospitalizations are just slightly below record numbers. The rolling two-week daily fatality numbers stand at an average of 439 deaths per day, up from 50 two months ago. Over the past week, the state has averaged 513 fatalities per day, a 104 percent increase over two weeks ago.

There are just over 21,600 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized, with 4,829 in intensive care units.

The 13-county Greater Sacramento Area, however, has shown some improvement due to increasing ICU bed availability. It has been removed from the most restrictive level of Newsom’s lockdown orders, meaning restaurants can resume outdoor dining and personal care services such as hair and nail salons and barber shops can reopen.

The situation remains grim elsewhere, with the Southern California and San Juaquin Valley areas still reporting 0 percent capacity for ICU beds.

Recent scientific modeling shows the situation in Los Angeles County, already the hardest hit in the state, may be worse than the numbers show.

Data suggests that more than 3 million of the 10 million county residents have contracted the virus, which is more than triple the number of confirmed tests. Health officials believe that is because many to have contracted the virus were asymptomatic or suffered only mild symptoms and did not get tested.

The county has recorded nearly 13,000 deaths, but the transmission rate has slowed as experts say the virus is increasingly coming into contact with people who have already had it and likely developed an immunity.